Network Rail have unveiled their plans to protect 1.8km of railway between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth.
The stretch of railway, which was closed for six weeks following a landslide in 2014, needs to be better protected from cliff falls, land slips and damage caused by the sea during extreme weather.
The plans, unveiled on Monday, include moving the railway away from the sections of cliff that pose the greatest hazard and out towards the sea.
The design would require some land reclamation to allow a buttress – a sloping rock structure to stabilise the cliffs and protect the railway – to be built, and to protect the realigned railway from the sea, a rock revetment or enhanced sea wall will also be required to absorb the energy of the waves and allow for the railway to be relocated away from the cliffs.
The proposals also include enhanced leisure access, cycling and walking routes and new amenity areas so that users of Holcombe beach continue to enjoy the space and views of the Devon coastline. A footpath on the sea wall next to the railway line would be maintained, but a new footway/cycle path would be created on the inside of the line between it and the cliffs.
Subject to the plans being agreed and funded, the works to realign the railway and protect the cliffs could be complete by 2026.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route, said: “These proposals will protect the railway for generations to come, but we listened to public feedback to the original concepts in 2016 and have worked hard to minimise the impact on Holcombe beach and incorporate new and improved amenities such as cycling and foot paths.
“The railway is a vital artery to the South West, which communities, businesses and visitors to the region depend on for connecting with the rest of the UK so we really want to hear views on our updated proposals to allow us to refine them further before we apply for consent to undertake the work.”
Speaking at the first of ten consultation events, Dean Shaw, Media Manager, for Network Rail, said that the proposals aim to ensure the railway line is to be better protected from cliff falls, land slips and damage caused by the sea during extreme weather.
He added: “The 1.8km stretch of railway was devastated by a landslide from the cliffs back in 2014 which blocked the railway for six weeks and which caused huge disruption to the whole south west. The realignment of the track will be slightly moved to take it away from the hazardous cliffs, and will be supported by buttresses and will be supported by sea defences. At Dawlish, the sea is the biggest hazard. But here, it is the cliffs.”
To protect the realigned railway, a rock revetment or enhanced sea wall will be built to absorb the energy of the waves and allow for the railway to be relocated away from the cliffs.
Rockfell Shelters will also built over the top of the railway line, as will buttresses – sloping rock structures to stabilise the cliffs and protect the railway.
Access to Smugglers Beach at Holcombe will be retained under the plans, also the size of the beach will be reduced.
(Image: Network Rail)
A five week consultation on the proposals will run until July 15, and residents and interested parties will be invited to provide feedback on the proposals to help finalise the designs.
Mr Shaw added: “We want to know what you think of the plans so we can shape them for the future. After the consultation has finished, we will collate the feedback and then see what we can do, and then come back in the Autumn with the revised plans that will be shaped by what the public tells us.”
(Image: Network Rail)
He said that then the plans would be presented to the Government to see if they would fund them, but it would be at least a year from the Autumn consultation before work will begin, subject to funding.
Construction will take around four years and the scheme would aim to be completed by 2026.
He added: “The first thing is to get the plans right from engineering and community point of view and then get the funding for it. All of the work is about making the vital stretch of railway more resilient. It doesn’t just affect the communities at Teignmouth and Dawlish but for the whole of the South West. The six weeks of closures in 2014 cost more than £1billion so we know just how important this line is for the whole of the South West.”
Residents and interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the proposals to help finalise the designs. The detailed proposals are available online at www.networkrail.co.uk/SouthWestRRP